Monday, January 21, 2019

LTUE 2019 Schedule

I'll be at the annual Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium here in Provo in just a couple weeks! This is the one that's basically in my own back yard. Incidentally, LTUE is the conference I've been attending the longest and most consistently--10+ years--and it also happens to be one of my favorites. LTUE is great on a number of levels, but their programming is usually top-notch (I've posted mine below, which I'm quite excited about this year), they have great guests and panelists, and it's a great place to meet other writers and folks in the business, especially if you're local. Also, at $55 for the three-day experience, and a measly $5 for students, it's a steal.

So, there's my plug! If you're a sci-fi/fantasy writer in the area and aren't attending LTUE, that's something you need to remedy, like, now.

Plus, you'll see me there! So, win-win-win!


Thu 14 Feb

11 AM (Zion) - A Punch in the Face: Writing Gripping Fight Scenes
"Action, well done, will draw in the audience and keep them on their seats. Not so well one, it leads to boredom and fatigue. How to keep your work in the first category and avoid the second." I've been on at least a half dozen versions of this panel, probably more, but we usually find an interesting way to approach and discuss the subject. More often than not, I learn something here, too.

12 PM (Elm) - Not Just Shock: Writing Good Grimdark
"Grimdark isn't just shocking deaths and violence. How to create compelling stories in a grimdark environment." Ah, ye olde grimdark. Views on this vary widely, so these panels are always interesting.

6 PM (Bryce) - Writing LDS Themes in Mainstream Fiction
"Even though none of the characters are LDS (or sometimes, human) doesn't mean that the Plan of Salvation or doctrines on redemption can't make an appearance. LDS authors publishing mainstream fiction will talk about how they use these themes and others." Because what is more fantastical (or, at least, promotes more of a fantastical worldview) than Mormonism??

Fri 15

6 PM (Arches) - Pantsing: Making the Most of Draft 0
"Discovery writing can be a great way to work out your ideas as you go. It is also a great way to throw yourself off track and cultivate lazy writing. Come listen to professional panthers (and pantsers-at-heart) talk about how they make the most of discovery writing." I've taken a different approach to this recently, mainly in that I use both methods depending on which fits the story best. So that'll be my perspective, here.

Sat 16

12 PM (Arches) - Writing with the Door Open: How to Revise
"You can put whatever you want in a first draft, but at some point, the day of reckoning comes. How to revise with purpose, and what you should be looking for to strengthen your story." Standard revision discussion, I suppose. Revision was (and, in some ways, continues to be) one of the most difficult parts of the process for me, so I've done a lot of learning in this area. Should be a good discussion.

3 PM (Bryce) - Three Types of Terror: Gore, the Unnatural, and Deep Terror
"According to Stephen King, every good horror tory includes three kinds of terror: the blood and guts gore, the unnatural (like a spider the size of a bear), and the deep psychological terror of the unknown. How to use all three to the greatest effect." Advice I've discussed many times before, but advice that is generally useful nevertheless. Plus I'm always up for discussing Stephen King, or something he wrote, or something he said, etc....

4 PM (Elm) - Writing Stories without Villains
"Antagonists do not have to be people. How to have conflict and a satisfactory resolution without a bad guy." Stories! Without villains! Okay!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Hymn of Acxiom

I randomly came across this song on reddit and now it's been playing on repeat for me as I write the new novel (because, you know, AI). I think it's cool.

Also, it's introduced me to Vienna Teng, whose music I've been enjoying in general, as well.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Films of 2018

I really enjoy watching films, not only because I just enjoy films in general, but I also appreciate them from a structural perspective. When I watch films, I break them down and analyze the story, the characters, the setting, and how well everything works (sometimes consciously, always subconsciously). And this was another solid year for me of film-watching. I saw 47 films that were released this year (despite my giving up the ghost of my MoviePass, RIP), and as I did last year, I want to list them all here, from my least favorite to my favorite, because it sounds like a fun and interesting thing to do.

I'll offer the same not on my ranking system that I did last year: I generally considered typical qualities of each film--mainly the writing, directing, acting, and story--and, for the most part, this list adheres to those criteria. But after everything was said and done, especially when some films were too close to call, the ultimate decision factor basically became "how much would I want to see this film a second (or third, or fourth) time?" Put another way, how much did I genuinely enjoy the experience? While receiving high marks in my typical criteria usually translates to me enjoying a film, there are other factors (genre, music, relevance, and yeah, sure, my mood, etc.) that contribute as well. So, while this list is definitive for me, and I welcome anyone's comments and dissensions, don't you dare tell me I'm wrong. This is my list. If you want a definitive list, go make your own, yo.

That being said, let's get to it!

47. The Commuter
This reminded me of some movie I saw in the 2000's with Dennis Quaid where he protected the President of the United States and it was generally very lame and cheesy. Except this one was worse. It also reminded me to a lesser extent of The Taking of Pelham 123 and Source Code, but much, much worse. That's about all I remember about the film, and I guess that's all I have to say on this one.

46. 15:17 To Paris
There were about, I don't know, ten minutes of this film that were pretty awesome and worth watching. Those ten minutes are intense and fascinating, and I appreciated seeing the action of what took place on the screen. Other than those 10 minutes, however, the film was kind of a dumpster fire. The excessive backstory felt awkwardly crammed into the film so it could be shown on the big screen.

45. The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix)
This is the first of a group of original Netflix titles I'm including on my list. I'm a fan of the original Cloverfield film, and I loved 10 Cloverfield Lane. This entry into the series/Cloververse/whatever we're calling it, however, was terrible. Convoluted everything. A mess.

44. The Death Cure

43. TAU (Netflix)
My hopes, while not high for this film, at least wanted something interesting as it involves AI and that's something I've been studying extensively, lately. It disappointed not only on the AI front, however (the use of AI was pretty boring imo), but on just about every other front as well.

42. A Wrinkle in Time
How they bungled this film up so badly, I don't know. It had a great cast, and great source material. Shrug.

41. The Princess Switch (Netflix)
The first in a triplet of Netflix Christmas Romcoms I watched with Rachel, and the least interesting by far.

40. Christmas Inheritance (Netflix)
The second of the Netflix Christmas triplet, and while it was slightly less forgettable than The Princess Switch, it was still pretty meh. Best things about it were Plop from the later seasons of The Office and Clarke from the awesome TV series The 100 playing the leads.

39. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
I don't know what's worse, this film or Jurassic Park 3.

38. Rampage
The return of Plop! Not outright irritating to watch, but it wasn't that great, either. It did have Duane Johnson in it, though, which is always a plus. This is the point in my list where films go from outright bad to tolerable and generally entertaining.

37. The Holiday Calendar (Netflix)
The best of the Netflix Christmas triplet. It has Kat Graham in it, who I think is awesome, and overall the premise and storytelling were pretty decent compared to the other two.

36. Upgrade
Another AI flick, but another one that missed the mark in making AI really interesting onscreen, imo. It was vaguely interesting and had some great action sequences, though.

35. I Feel Pretty
First of all, Amy Schumer is great. Second of all, I really liked the premise of the film. Thirdly, and a strong however: the execution fell flat for me.

34. Robin Hood
I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I liked it, if that makes sense. The action was pretty solid, but the story was lackluster, and the characters not very interesting. It made a half-hearted attempt at sort of a contemporary take on medieval culture, but failed pretty miserably there, too. A Knight's Tale is the gold standard where that is concerned, and I wish it had taken more cues from that film than from, say, King Arthur from last year.

33. The First Purge
The Purge series. Hmmm. I don't have very many opinions on it, which is pretty telling, I think. This might be the best film of the series? Unfortunately, I don't think that's saying much.

32. The Spy Who Dumped Me
A fairly funny film! Mila Kunis is decent here. Kate McKinnon is awesome.

31. Pacific Rim: Uprising
Unfortunately this film seemed to lose all of the charm and outrageousness that made the first one so awesome, but kept all of the cheese. A solid cast, and decent action sequences, but not much more than that.

30. Set It Up (Netflix)
A surprisingly decent rom-com from Netflix. Awesome cast. I'd say this is where films on the list start trending more good than bad, or merely average.

29. Game Night
Genuinely funny, and well-told at that.

28. Ocean's 8
Not as good as I wanted it to be, but still pretty good all the same.

27. Tomb Raider
Admittedly higher on my list than it probably deserves, and all because of Alicia Vikander. Absolutely better than the Angelina Jolie adaptations of the video game, but not nearly as good as the video game reboot on which it's based.

26. Solo: A Star Wars Story*
I didn't think this was as bad as some people said it was. I also didn't think it was as good as other people said it was. Better than The Last Jedi. Not nearly as good as Rogue One.

25. Ant Man and the Wasp
I think the best thing the Ant-Man films have going for them in Michael Peña, but they have some other solid qualities, too. This superhero flick was both funny and fun, and tied in Infinity War reasonably well, too.

24. Molly's Game
This was...good. I'm not sure I remember much about it other than that? I think it had Idris Elba, and that gives it +100,000,000 points on my movie scale, which puts it right about here.

23. The Ritual (Netflix)
A decent horror flick. Fantastic creature design.

22. Tag
I'm not sure why I placed Game Night up there and Tag down here, because thinking of them both now, they seem pretty similar. Both very funny, and both strong stories. I think the difference might have been characterization, which gave Tag a few extra points.

21. The Incredibles 2
A solid sequel, and I think just as good as the original.

20.  Mission Impossible: Fallout
So I didn't think this was nearly as good as the critics seemed to think, or a lot of people I know. But it was good.

19. Bird Box (Netflix)
A decent adaptation, but I absolutely preferred the book. I do wonder whether much of the tension was taken out of it for me because I read the book, or because the film just wasn't as tense as I wanted it to be.

18. Hereditary
Yet another film that wasn't quite as good as the critics claimed, in my opinion. But this was a very good horror film. Reminiscent of Kubrick's The Shining in the sense of unease and overwhelming dread it built, agonizingly slowly.

17. Bohemian Rhapsody
I mean, Rami Malik was amazing, here, and it was awesome to see Queen's journey and music on the screen. There were some flaws--some more significant than others--but overall it was pretty great.

16. To All The Boys I've Loved Before (Netflix)
Awesome. Funny. Well-told. Great characters. One of the top three rom-coms I saw last year, and I can't wait for the sequel.

15. Red Sparrow
This was...good? I mean, I think Jennifer Lawrence was pretty good in it? And it was a decent story with decent twists? But the truth is, as I'm thinking about it, I'm second-guessing why I placed it so high (but too lazy to place it somewhere else). I think I wanted it to be more like Atomic Blonde, but it ended up being more don't know, something more boring than that.

14. Love, Simon
Second favorite rom-com of the 2018. I loved this film.

13. I, Tonya
A great character piece, and Margot Robbie hits it out of the park. This actually made me sympathize with Tonya Harding--something I would've thought almost impossible prior to seeing the film.

12. Outlaw King (Netflix)
Everything Braveheart wanted to be and more. An awesome period flick about a part of English/Scottish history that isn't nearly represented enough.

11. Unsane
So creepy. And well-told, too, with a phenomenal central character brought to life by Claire Foy.

10. Deadpool 2
Deadpool returns with his atypical quips, fourth-wall breakage, and some awesome action sequences. I loved the new mutants introduced in this one. A solid superhero film, and perhaps even better than the first installment.

9. Disobedience
Achingly good story. A slow-burning look into the romantic relationship between two women in a very conservative society. I really enjoyed this fim.

8. Black Panther
This film was just plain awesome. Incredible cast, Michael B. Jordan perhaps even a head above the others.

7. Avengers: Infinity War
I think Black Panther is probably a better film than Infinity War in just about every way, but for me IW squeaks one slot above BP because of the scope, because of Thanos, and because of the audacity of that ending.

6. A Simple Favor
I loved this film. I might not be as technically good as some of the other films at the top of my list, but I loved the comedy-noir cocktail. And, of course, Anna Kendrick.

5. Annihilation
I'm a sucker for sweeping sci-fi epics, and...well...this is a sweeping, sci-fi epic. It is certainly flawed, but I love the ambiguity, the visuals, and the creepiness of it.

4. Crazy Rich Asians
This film surprised me. Awesome characterization brought to life by a phenomenal cast, a well-told story, and just a lot of fun. My favorite rom-com of the year.

3. A Star is Born
Lady Gaga blew me away. Bradley Cooper did an amazing job as an actor, and an even better job as a director. But honestly this film, while very good, would probably be further down my list if it weren't for the sequence leading up to and including where Ally and Jack first sing together on stage. That sequence was so good.

2. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
The huge surprise film of the year, for me. I loved it. Great characters, great story, great theme. Uses the animation medium perfectly. I love that the film was animated, and it was absolutely a better film for that (and if you were disappointed it was animated, I feel sad for your understanding of storytelling).

1. A Quiet Place
I personally wouldn't qualify this as horror, but it was an awesome, innovative thriller that kept me tense and wondering what would happen through 90% of the film. I was scared and tense in ways I never thought a film would make me scared and tense. I loved the creature design and general premise of the film (honestly, if this hadn't come out, I think Bird Box would have been higher on my list; while the films are certainly different, A Quiet Place did everything Bird Box was trying to do, but better). Acting was amazing. What can I say? My favorite film of the year.